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Syracuse residents raise questions and concerns about consolidation with county

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News file photo
Melanie Littlejohn (left) of Consensus speaks to the public at the Southwest Community Center.

There were more questions than answers at one of the first public hearings in Onondaga County on government consolidation since a report was released in January by Consensus CNY. Syracuse city residents spoke passionately and are concerned they will have less of a voice if city and county governments merge.

Yusuf Abdul-Qadir of Syracuse was one of about 50 people at the Southwest Community Center for the public hearing to explain infrastructure and public safety consolidation recommendations.

“It’s interesting that something called consensus doesn’t really quite have consensus,” Abdul-Qadir said.

He said he thinks too many proposals on city and county consolidation have been made in the report prior to the public’s input. 

“I think that this has become high[er] on a priority list than the issues of concentrated poverty, the vast amounts of segregation that exists in the housing markets of Syracuse as well as the school districts in this community, in Onondaga County,” Abdul-Qadir said.

His sentiments on poverty were shared by those in the audience.

"I almost feel as if the decision has been made prior to engagement having had happened," Abdul-Qadir said. "The train was already moving before folks were asked to hop on. We know that consolidation doesn’t always work. There are ways to share revenue, ways to share services.”

The themes of the presentation were consistent: service providers in the county could be saving money by sharing staff, resources and operations. But city residents in the audience had many questions on how current jobs and services would be affected and if they would lose representative power if a city government is dissolved. Public hearings will continue into March.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.